Some snippets from childhood

March 4, 2008

Authors Note: I stumbled across this old college writing assignment in my archived emails. The assignment was to describe the neighborhood of my youth. I thought Sariah and our subsequent spawn might be interested in reading this so I posted it here with a few additions…

Late in the year 1985, my parents announced to my sister and I that my mother was pregnant and that another little sibling was forthcoming. At the time I didn’t think much of it, mostly because I was five and didn’t think much of anything beyond Saturday morning cartoons and Pop-Tarts.

The result of our little package from heaven was pretty far-reaching including forcing a move from our 3 bedroom condo in central San Diego to a much roomier four bedroom home in Northern San Diego. The whole moving process was neat for a kid my age because suddenly I had a whole new neighborhood to get lost in. It took several years, but I eventually explored every nook and cranny of that neighborhood. Frankly I could probably still find my way around with my eyes shut. Of course I’d have to be riding a tiny BMX bike with pegs on the back and a baseball card in the spokes (because nothing sounds more like a Harley than a stiff piece of cardstock rattling around aluminum bicycle spokes).

On the surface, the old neighborhood has looked essentially the same for the past 14 years, the way I have viewed it, however, has altered dramatically.

We lived within the San Diego County border which is, by definition, a desert – lots of dry scrub brush litters the landscape. The area in which we lived however is often called “the green belt” of San Diego. Which basically means that with a little elbow grease and some modern irrigation technology, the neighborhoods are green and full of thriving flora. This was something that my friends and I in our elementary days learned to capitalize upon.

Our neighborhood was a cornucopia of fruit bearing plant life.

Across the street from my house lived “The tangerine man”, so named because every winter, without fail, the three tangerine trees that lined the side of his two-story, brown, shake shingle house would bow down with the weight of a full harvest of tangerines. This became a regular stop for us during the winter months along our walk home from Rolling Hills elementary school. The wooden fence enclosing the tangerine trees was little more than three feet high and we were never too hard-pressed to scale it and enrich our diet (Except for the time I tried to jump the fence in my Rollerblades — that was a debacle on a scale rarely seen on our sleepy streets wherein much blood was spilled).

Right behind the tangerine man in a similar two story house with a similarly unintimidating fence stood the “apple house” and come springtime the several apple trees would litter our neighborhood with white blossom petals silently heralding the arrival of some of the best apples any young boy could ask for. After a long day of bike riding and street football, a ripe, juicy, unwashed apple plucked fresh from the tree was a treasure unrivaled.

Down the street a bit at the bottom of the hill, in the middle of a lawn filled with red lava rocks stood a young cumquat tree which yielded only a small harvest every summer. Although the fruit was very small and sparse, we appreciated the effort and silently mourned the loss of the tree when the home was sold and re-landscaped.

And so, from age eight to twelve, the world (as we knew it) was our fruit basket and provided for us the whole year round.

Around twelve years old, jumping the neighbors fences and eating their fruit changed dramatically. We weren’t seen as merely a neighborhood nuisance, but rather trespassing delinquents. The end of neighborhood fruit marked the end of an era for me. Just being a kid was a thing of the past.

Now I am dating a beautiful young woman and with the prospect of marriage comes the potential for digging up my roots and planting them somewhere other than the neighborhood I have called home for the past 15 years. The place looks a little different now than it did when I used to ride my bike up and down the road that winds around my block then leads out to the once forbidden two-lane street. The apple trees have been cut down and so have the tangerine trees. I don’t know where the little kids go to get their recommended daily allowance of fruit.
I went on a walk recently and passed through the park around the corner from my home. It still has about an acre of grass for kids to enjoy and a sand box with the swing set and monkey bars my friends and I used hang on for hours.

It was late at night so no one was playing there. At one time long ago I wouldn’t have been there either, I had to be in the house at dark


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